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Campus leaders promote student activism at Day of Reflection event

By K.C. Wassman, Daily Staff Reporter
Published September 7, 2011

When LSA senior Angel Martin came to the University five years ago, she was the first person in her family to attend college and she noticed something was missing.

Martin saw the need for a campus group for first-generation college students like herself to provide support for any challenges students face. So, Martin took it upon herself to help create First Generation College Students at Michigan.

Last night, at the inaugural event of Generation Found, a coalition of campus organization leaders, Martin spoke about how the University helped her deal with the problems she faced as a first-generation college student.

“Michigan’s diverse community of students and faculty definitely was my saving grace,” Martin said. “Here I found a network of first (generation college students) who guided me through my undergraduate career and helped me to succeed.”

Martin was one of multiple campus group leaders who spoke to a crowd of about 60 people about their experiences becoming involved at the University and elsewhere. The event, titled Day of Reflection, was intended to inspire activism among students. The event featured 10 University student speakers and one alumni speaker, who shared their personal stories of activism to a crowd of about 60 people.

LSA senior Eman Abdelhadi, a coordinator for the event, said in her opening remarks at the event, which took place in the Michigan Student Assembly Chambers, that Generation Found was created at a student leader retreat in May to help create change on campus.

“We wanted a way to expose students who are already involved to different campus involvements and students who weren’t involved to become change makers,” Abdelhadi said.

Among the speakers at the event was MSA President DeAndree Watson, who shared his thoughts on how activism shapes today’s college students.

“(It’s) the message that defines this generation, that the problems of today are our responsibility, and that together we can overcome that, together we can shape a bright future for ourselves and that together we are not the lost generation,” Watson said.

LSA senior Tim Bergsma, captain of the varsity soccer team, spoke about how his experience running soccer camps in South Africa taught him about activism.

“My experience with activism is find what you love; I found soccer,” Bergsma said. “I was able to use soccer to break down racial barriers.”

LSA junior Riley Linebaugh didn’t give a conventional speech but instead performed a dramatic reading of an original poem about race issues in the United States.

The Day of Reflection event was originally scheduled to take place on the Diag, but due to inclement weather, it was moved to the MSA Chambers. Though the rain forced a change of plans, Abdelhadi said she was still happy about the number of people who came to the event.

“The rain really hit us hard,” Abdelhadi said. “We had about 350 people attending on the Facebook event, but I’m satisfied with the turnout.”

Public Policy junior Sam Lewis, one of the executive directors of Relay for Life, said in an interview after the event that he was nervous about speaking in front of the crowd, but enjoyed the event because of other speakers’ stories.

“I was really nervous, but it’s such an honor to be a part of (Day of Reflection),” Lewis said. “I learned just as much as I shared.”